Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I forgive you, Driver of the Red Truck

I'm talking to you, Distracted Driver, you coming home from the night shift who eighteen days from today a year ago struck my daughter as she ran one winter morning with her coach and teammate.  Do you remember?  She was almost across the road, almost stepping up onto the sidewalk when you hit her.  That she is living and not dead makes it easier to forgive you.

But not much easier.

Unlike her father, I never went over and took you by the hand. I never made any gesture to make peace with you.  It wasn't just that I had hands and eyes only for her stilled form lying there on the cold road in the whirling lights of the ambulance.  I didn't want to see your face.  This town is small enough, I knew I'd see you again and again.  I didn't want to recognize you later.

I'm not going to harrow you up with the pain she still has when she runs hard.  The nights she had to sleep sitting up.  Her weeks in a wheelchair.  Her missed opportunities.  Apparently you are a good guy.  No alcohol.  No drugs.  A moment of inattention, eyes drawn by someone's Christmas lights, head weighed down by a long night's work at our local big box store.

It could have been anyone.

Which makes me angrier.  The acceptable risk we agree to live in, with an acceptable level of fatality and an even higher acceptable level of injury.  The miles and miles of roads we build to the specification of our cars, houses built around garages, towns set up to service the automobile.

I don't hate you, Driver of the Truck that Struck my Daughter, though I do abominate your insurance company whenever I'm forced to take notice of its wriggling and whining, its unabashed greedy stinginess trying every angle to avoid paying her medical expenses, suggesting in a hundred ways that maybe she shouldn't have been running at all  - on the road! at a crosswalk! at 9 in the morning! without a bubble-suit and helmet!

Eventually, though, the bills will all be paid one way or another and then I can forget if not forgive your corrupted bicoid American Family Insurance, too.

Time heals many wounds.

But still I will live in an economy that believes big box stores are necessary, that requires big box stores to stay open through what should be the still hours of the night.  Still I will live in a system where medical care is determined by bottom-liners lining their own nests in snug offices of insurance companies.  A culture in love with its machines, in exile from the body.  A town with narrow roads.  Where runners and walkers and bikers run and walk and ride at their own risk.  Even though our town, our nation, our whole economy would be healthier, happier, stronger if we ran and walked and rode more often.

I can forgive you, Driver, but not your accident, because it was no accident.  It is what is expected to happen.  Not too frequently and nothing personal, but still expected.

And I can't come to peace with that.

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